School Start/End Times Study
Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the questions below to see answers to the most frequently asked questions about the School Start/End Times Study. If you have any additional questions, see the contact information to the right.
Why is the district looking at changing school start and end times?As part of the ongoing implementation of its Next Generation of Edina Public Schools Strategic Plan, the School Board charged administration with exploring options for school start and end times at the its school sites. With upcoming changes to middle and high school grade configurations in the fall of 2017, as well as updates to school facilities and programs district-wide, the district sought to engage stakeholders in its planning of future start/end time schedules that balance the educational needs of students with available resources.
What start/end time options are being considered?The School Board advanced the following options for consideration and community input:
- Option A (revised) which is similar to the current three tier system, however Concord is moved to Tier 1 to make up for the shift of ninth grade to EHS. This option has all schools starting later, with the first tier starting at 8 am. Note that this option would shorten the length of the middle school day by 15 minutes. SEE DETAILS
- Option B is essentially the reverse of Option A (revised), with four elementaries in Tier 1 and the middle schools and Concord in Tier 3. This option has start times similar to the current structure, starting at 7:40 a.m. SEE DETAILS
- Option B (alternate) is similar to Option B, but with later start times for all sites, with the first tier starting at 8 a.m. SEE DETAILS
- Option C is similar to Option B, except has five elementary schools in Tier 1, keeps Normandale and EHS in Tier 2, and moves the middle schools to Tier 3. This option keeps start times similar to the current structure, starting at 7:40 a.m. Note that while this option could shorten ride times for tiers 2 and 3, it would require increasing walking distances for elementary schools from 0.7 to 1 mile in order to meet budget parameters set by the school board. SEE DETAILS
When will the decision be made?Administration will present a formal recommendation to the School Board on December 12. The School Board expects to take action on the recommendation at its meeting on January 9, 2017.
When would new start/end times be implemented?The proposed changes would be for implementation with the 2017-18 school year.
What other options were explored?DRAFT OPTIONS - Utilizing the insights and work of the 2016 Start/End Times Task Force, district administration refined draft options for alternative start/end times for its elementary schools, middle schools and high school. Balancing a variety of competing interests and issues, administration presented the four draft options, along with modified alternates for each option, to the School Board at its meeting on Nov. 14, 2016. The Board discussed the options at length and provided direction to administration on which options to advance for further community input prior to returning with a recommendation on Dec. 12, 2016.
What factors were considered in developing these recommendations?The Task Force identified key considerations and values in prioritizing school start/end time options — student learning and engagement, student safety, walkable, impact on families, operational costs, program consistency/equity between schools, and before and after school activities. The task force also identified several other consideration when developing options, include timing of the decision, walking distances, length of the school day, program adjustments and family needs. Honoring the work of the task force, administration utilized these considerations in developing its draft and revised options.
How will the change in K-12 start/end times affect early childhood programs? What about transportation for early education programs?Any change to elementary and middle school start/end times may also impact early education transportation services accordingly. Currently Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) programs are transported to school at times between the second and third tier bus routes, and after the last tier. The district’s transportation department may need to make adjustments to these times similar to any approved start/end time change at the K-12 level.
Do these changes also impact Success Center transportation?As with the potential change to early education busing noted above, transportation options may need to be adjusted to accommodate program changes for elementary success centers. Such a change would depend on what start/end times would be approved for elementary schools. If elementary schools start earlier, success centers may choose to operate more after school.
How can I provide my input on the options?In an effort to provide feedback on how each of the options will impact instruction, the school day and family schedules, the district is utilizing its three-part ThoughtExchange process to gather input. By using this online engagement tool, the district is able to gather insights and information beyond just voting on an option. Changing school start and end times is a complex process, involving many different issues. By having participants share details on how the options will impact them, the School Board will be better able to make a decision that best meets the needs of all students. Staff and parents should have received an invitation to participate in the ThoughtExchange. If you misplaced this email or did not receive it, you can still participate by registering here.
This decision to change school start/end times feels rushed. Why the hurry?The topic of changing start times for district schools has been a topic for several years, especially since the community came together in 2012 to develop the Next Generation of Edina Public Schools Strategic Plan. As the strategic plan has advanced and key benchmarks come closer, including changes to middle and high school grade configurations in the fall of 2017, and updates to school facilities and programs district-wide, the School Board decided to develop a community process that would explore options for school start and end times at its school sites. With the move of 9th grade to the high school, which was decided in 2014 as the best educational option, approximately 560 students that qualify for district transportation will now be on the EHS schedule. This would require an additional 10 buses for the high school route, buses that the district does not currently have in its fleet.
What has been the process to develop these options?In May 2016 the School Board charged the administration with developing options for alternate school start/end times. Administration then conducted an open call for applicants to serve on a School Start/End Times Task Force. The Task Force met in the fall of 2016, reviewing research, operations and other considerations to develop a variety of options for administrative review. Administration then refined a set of draft options, per direction of the Task Force, which were presented for School Board discussion on November 14. The district is now gathering additional community input on a set of revised options per that School Board discussion, as well as reviewing other pertinent data per Board direction. A formal recommendation will be presented to the School Board on Dec. 12 for discussion, with board action expected on Jan. 9, 2017.
What research did the district reference in drafting the options?The School Start/End Times Task Force and administration reviewed a variety of data and resources as it worked to assess the various considerations, values and impacts that go into developing school start/end times. Click here to read some of the research reviewed by the Task Force.
Why not make the high school start earlier?In 1996, Edina was the first school in the country to recognize key research on adolescent brain development and sleep patterns, moving the high school start time to 8:30 a.m. Research since that time, including independent studies on Edina High School, highlight the positive impact of a later high school start time on student achievement, engagement and discipline. Similarly, recent studies and recommendation from physicians and education professionals point to similar patterns and needs in younger adolescents, including middle school age students.
Wouldn’t teens get more sleep if parents just made them go to bed earlier and took away the TV and cell phone access?While we agree that good parenting includes limiting access to TV and cell phones in the evening, the research states that’s not enough. Research shows that teens need about 9.25 hours of sleep per night to be alert and functional. But according to research done by the University of Minnesota, teenagers’ brains during adolescence have a shift in their sleep cycles that is due to developmental changes which signal the brain to feel sleepy. As a result, teens are generally unable to fall asleep before about 10:45 p.m. and the brain remains in a sleep mode until about 8 a.m.
With the later school start time for middle and high school, won’t kids just stay up later at night?The CAREI (Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement) findings were contrary to the fears and expectations that a later start would result in students staying awake an hour later on school nights. Students included in the study reported getting an extra hour of sleep each night even after four years into the school start time change.
Most of the research seems to focus on the benefits of a later start time for secondary students. What about elementary students?The research on the impact of start times and elementary students is not as well researched as that for teenagers.
- Researchers note that elementary students are biologically predisposed to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake-up times than older students.
- Many younger students are already in a daycare setting prior to the start of school. They are already focused, engaged and ready for learning at this time of day. While most of the research has centered on secondary students, the research around elementary-aged students has shown no definitive ill effects of an early start time.
- A 2014 study conducted by the University of Kentucky did find that early start times were associated with worse performance in schools in more affluent districts — that is, those with fewer kids getting free or reduced-cost lunches. For schools with more disadvantaged students, later start times did not seem to make a difference in performance, possibly because these children already have so many other risk factors.
- Dr. David Sousa, author of How the Brain Learns, suggests that pre-adolescents (i.e., virtually all elementary-aged students) are more focused earlier in the morning than adolescent students. Specifically, he shows pre-adolescent students having the same degree of focus at 7 a.m. that adolescent students have at 8 a.m. This suggests that elementary schools may be able to start earlier in the day without negatively affecting student achievement.
Why can’t everyone start school at the same time?While the primary focus for deciding school start/end times should be on what is best for student learning, the reality of district operational resources, especially student transportation services, plays an integral role in identify school times. In order to transport all students who are eligible for busing, the district employs a very efficient transportation system in a three-tier model, requiring a minimum of 42 standard buses (not including special education and other special transport vehicles). To move to a different model would require more buses and/or increased walking distances for students to receive district transportation.
How many students does the district currently bus?Under current district transportation guidelines, elementary students who live at least 0.7 miles away from school receive busing, as are middle school and high schools who live 1 mile from school. As a result, EPS currently transports over 7,000 students (K-12), which equates to approximately 83% of the student population. While not all students take the bus to school - choosing instead to drive to school themselves or be dropped off by a parent/guardian - the district is required to transport all eligible district students.
Can the district change walking distances to save on busing?Yes. The state requires that all students living two miles or more from their school must receive district transportation. However, given the many hazardous roads and crossings in Edina, the district has chosen to set its walking distances at 0.7 miles for elementary and 1.0 miles for middle school and high school students. Note that one of the revised options (Option C) does include an increased walking distance to address additional costs.
Couldn’t the district just switch from a three-tier to a two-tier model and thus help all schools start later?The Task Force did explore the option of a two-tier busing model, which administration did present to the School Board as a draft option on November 14. While the model would provide more attractive start/end time options for all schools, it would cost the district approximately $2.5 million in one-time costs for additional buses, and ongoing operating costs (fuel, maintenance, labor) of up to $1 million annually. The Board felt this was too great of a cost given current restraints on the district’s budget, and therefore decided not to advance it for further study at this time. However, the Board did indicate an interest in continuing to explore the possibility in the long-term, as part of its long-range fiscal planning.
Why isn’t Normandale French Immersion impacted by any of the proposed options? Why are they treated special?Normandale Elementary pulls students from all across the district. As such, the transportation for these students requires more buses and longer rides. Nearly 97% of Normandale students qualify for district transportation.
Do we have to provide transportation for non-public schools, such as Our Lady of Grace? Why do they get the prime time slot?Non-public schools within a school district are eligible for state transportation funding by their local school district. Because Our Lady of Grace also pulls from across the district, the most efficient way to transport them is with Normandale students. Thus the two are paired together to maximize buses and operational resources.
Impacts of Changes
With an earlier start time for elementary students than some students, will my child be waiting for the bus in the dark?At some times of the year, yes. Given the various options, the earliest pickup time for the furthest reaching homes in the district boundaries will likely be around 7 a.m. This means students may be waiting for the bus in the dark.
Will my elementary child have to walk to school in the dark?At some times of the year, your child may be walking to school in the dark. The district will continue to explore partnerships with parent and community organizations to provide safe routes to and from school.
My older kids watch my younger ones after school and daycare costs money. How are families supposed to adjust for this?Recognizing that every family situation is different, the district and School Board understand the need to make a decision on any possible school start/end time changes by January so that families can plan and make adjustments. The district’s school-age care programs (Kids Club and Wise Guys) are ready to respond to changes and family interest as needed, and the district will partner with families to secure child care or scholarships as they are able.
With a later start, will there be a shift to early morning meetings/practices at the middle and high school?Activities that currently meet after school will most likely continue to meet after school. Given the intent to allow teenagers more time to sleep in the morning, it would be counter-productive to scheduled additional meetings/practices before school.
Since students will get out of school later, will my child miss class time if they are in an event that begins late in the afternoon? (e.g. track meets, tennis matches, cross country meets)For some, yes. Some students already miss a portion of the school day (e.g., golf team), and students are responsible for getting their school work completed. However, the time most students will miss is minimal. Students who participate in extracurricular activities must maintain passing grades in order to continue to participate. Most importantly, the district is committed to working with coaches, advisors and parents to promote a healthy life balance for all students.
If middle school ends the day later than high school, how will activities be impacted?For high school activities that are for grades 9-12, and with the shift of grade nine to the high school next year, most students and activities will not impacted. For those activities that are grades 7-12, some middle school students may miss part of the school day for competition events. The district will work with coaches on ways to minimize the impact of middle school students arriving later to practice than their high school peers. For activities housed and geared toward middle school students, program advisors and coaches will adjust to the end times accordingly.